LIHUE — The Kauai County Council on Wednesday will hear public testimony on a bill aimed at helping the county shut down illegal vacation rental homes.
Bill 2746, which was introduced by request of the administration, aims to strengthen existing mechanisms to assist the Planning Department with its enforcement of transient vacation rental codes, statutes and regulations. The bill is an amendment to chapter 8 and 10 of Kauai County code 1987 and gives the county the ability to levy a civil fine of $10,000 per day for each day in which a transient vacation rental violation persists.
The planning department will issue notices of violations as an initial step, and then if violations persist, an order will be issued either via mail, personal delivery, or newspaper notice requiring the party to correct the violation and or pay a civil fine.
The order will become final 30 days after it is issued, according to the bill. Property owners will be granted the ability to appeal.
The bill will also grant the Planning Department the ability to place a lien on the property where the owner has refused to rectify the violation or pay the civil fine within 30 days of being served a violation order.
All civil fines collected by the department shall be deposited to the “planning enforcement account.”
The planning enforcement account was created for the appropriated funds collected through TVR fines and, “may also be expended for materials, supplies, and equipment that facilitate inspection and enforcement of such violations.” In addition, the funds can also be used to retain independent contractors to assist in the enforcement of TVR codes.
Council notification will be required for any single expenditure from the account that exceeds over $10,000. Any fines collected when the account has an excess of $100,000 in uncommitted funds will be transferred and deposited into the county’s general fund.
After Wednesday’s public hearing, the council will have a second reading of the bill before they will vote on it.
Planning Director Ka‘aina Hull’s estimated there are between 800 to 1,200 illegal TVRs operating on Kauai and hopes the implementation of TVR tracking software will help the department in enforcement capabilities.
“We do believe that Host Compliance has unique digital capabilities that the county does not have, and they will successfully identify illegal vacation rentals that have to date been able to evade our identification and enforcement processes,” Hull said of Host Compliance, who the county has contracted to use software to track illegal TVRs.
“Essentially it is a response to beef up enforcement efforts,” Councilmember Mason Chock said of the bill. “The Planning Department will be able to use the fines for enforcement.”
Last week, the planning department filed civil complaints in Fifth Circuit Court seeking an injunction against three TVRs, two of which are owned by a corporation controlled by television and film producer Mike Fleiss. Fleiss created the TV series “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” and has produced several films, including the Hostel franchise and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Fleiss’ TVRs have “been the subject of more than two years of noticing, investigations, litigation, hearings and duplicative findings,” the charging documents read. “Moreover, there are numerous cases just like this one wherein landlords seek to, at great negative social cost, flout applicable statutes, codes and administrative rules and conduct the business of unregistered commercial short-term transient vacation rentals.”
The county alleges Fleiss’ TVRs in Haena and Hanalei have operated illegally since their registration was denied in July 2017, when the filing was submitted 24 days past deadline.
“The defendant was forewarned, fines continue to accrue, the administrative process has been exhausted, and yet the defendant chooses to do as he pleases,” the complaint says.
The planning department is asking for a court order prohibiting the TVR to operate.
Ryan Collins, county reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.